The 32nd annual Four States Agricultural Exposition jumped off to a sunny start Thursday morning, and is well prepared to handle the weekend crowd.
Organized events, demonstrations, and classes are scheduled throughout the day. Hundreds of interesting booths, manned by your favorite local characters, relatives, and business partners, fill the well organized main arena.
A fast-paced tour of early events revealed a professional, educational and fun environment for learning hands-on agricultural skills and trades.
Kate Brooks drove over from Alamosa to participate in a horse and mule packing tutorial by Glenn Ryan, who has 30 years experience as a government packer.
"I've been doing this all my life, but here is always a simpler way to pack then you might know. That is why I attend these so I don't have to struggle unnecessarily," Brooks said. "I do a lot of backcountry riding and trail work. These packing skills will come in handy this summer when we work to clear trails in the South Fork burn area."
Nearby, Cathy Sumeracki's herding dogs stole the show at the dog training arena. A herd of goats are the prop, and they easily cue into the intense stare and gentle, silent coaxing of the border collies.
"We are encouraging people to bring over the dogs for an instinct test working with goats," Sumeracki said. "We'll be doing demos everyday and showcasing different herding breeds."
Melanie Rogers, of Mancos, brought her Norwegian elkhound, Beyla, to test her skills with the goats. With Cathy's leadership, the dog begins to get the hang of the drill, albeit with a lot of joyful barking.
"It's a fun activity for her. We do trials, where she herds sheep and ducks through obstacle courses and into trailers," Rogers says. "They can hold a herd stationary while you do something else, they can sort a herd for you. They are like another ranch hand that knows the livestock better than we do."
Jason Patrick, a bonafide horse whisperer from Steamboat, is a natural teacher and local favorite among equestrians.
"Horsemanship is part letting the horse make mistakes, so they can learn," he tells his five students on horseback. Speaking from a microphone, Patrick sees common mistakes, tries to correct them all while telling humbling stories of his early days.
"We all used to lean wildly like you see in the movies, but it is incorrect and puts the horse off balance," he says. "The more your shoulders are balanced, the happier the horse."
Patience and the realization that the horse may not understand what your trying to tell her, is another important aspect.
"Build up her confidence, take up slack on the reins gently, not yanking and jerking," he adds.
Horseman Danny Henderson could not pass up the opportunity to learn from the best.
"I was raised on a ranch, but there is always more to learn. How to get a horse to mind you is an art form," Henderson said.
Around the corner, gleaming orange tractors and farm implements come into view.
Rich Hillyer, of Southwest Ag, says he and his dad have been coming every year to the Four Corners Ag Expo because it is good business sense.
"It gives us exposure to the new people and we reconnect with the old customers," he said while setting up an impressive display of equipment. "We love showing off our products. Sometimes we make a sale on the spot, other times we make the sale six months later from someone we met here."
The expo lasts through the weekend. Gates open at 9 a.m.